On the occasion of the World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF), held on 4-5 June 2019 in Helsinki, the Architects' Council of Europe (ACE) published a Statement highlighting the importance of design to achieve more circularity in the construction and building sector, as well the solutions that architecture can bring.
Like many other sectors, the construction and building sectors operate largely within a linear economy model of “take, make and waste”. Yet, there is growing awareness of the finite nature of natural resources and fragility of our environment, and thereby of the urgent need to develop more sustainable and regenerative economic models.
Architecture has a crucial role to play here as many decisions taken during the design phase have long-lasting consequences on the environmental performance of a building. Developing circular economy principles in the built environment is fundamentally about changing the way we design our buildings to ensure that they can be operated, maintained, repaired, re-used or adapted to new needs, while optimising resource value and generating as little waste as possible. If high-quality architecture can create significant value, conversely, ill-conceived buildings can cause considerable waste and costs, both in the short term as well as for future generations.
Designing and building in a circular manner requires acknowledging that a building is above all a support for life. Beyond optimising the use of resources for their own sake, it is essential to seek to preserve and enhance the economic, social, environmental and cultural value that a place embodies for end-users, so that it can be used for the longest possible time.
The Statement presents different architectural solutions promoting circularity, focusing on preserving and enhancing the value of resources. It also puts forward some policy recommendations to support the architectural approach to circularity.